The best scientific calculators to meet your students’ needs
Considering these key points and questions will help you find the best scientific calculators for your school and students.
To find the best scientific calculators for your school and for students at various stages of their secondary education, it’s important to have a clear idea of your options and their respective benefits.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the different types of scientific calculators available, what they’re capable of and how they can make a positive difference to your teaching and the experience of your students.
Your options when choosing a scientific calculator
You and your students have plenty of choice when it comes to selecting the right calculator for your needs.
Our ClassWiz scientific calculator range comprises three models, which provide all the tools and capabilities students need to navigate the curriculum from year 7 all the way up to their GCSE maths exams, and in the case of the fx-991CW, A-level as well.
All of our ClassWiz calculators feature an intuitive menu structure for simple navigation, easy-press rounded keys and a textured side-grip.
The UK’s favourite scientific calculator
Casio fx-83/85GT CW
The Casio fx-83GT CW and fx-85GT CW are the entry-level options in the ClassWiz range. They are identical in functionality, the only difference between them being the option of solar as well as battery power on the fx-85GT CW.
These calculators are excellent options for key stage 3 maths students who are discovering new topics as they start their secondary education and preparing to explore them in more depth.
Students are embarking on the next phase in their education when they start year 7. There’s a good chance that they will have little to no experience with calculators, so their first year of secondary school is the ideal time to spark their imaginations by introducing them to something new such as an entry-level scientific calculator.
The fx-991CW is the most advanced model in the Casio scientific calculator range and the next step up from the fx-83/85GT CW models.
It’s a powerful option for year 10 and 11 students preparing for their GCSE exams, thanks to additional functions including equation solving and numerical calculus – a useful feature for those studying further maths. .
The fx-991CW is also sufficiently well-equipped to support students who want to take the next step and study A-level maths. For those operating at greater depth and studying further maths, we would also recommend considering the fx-CG50, which allows students to take their learning into a new realm through graphing and enhanced functionality.
Whatever Casio scientific calculator you choose, you will have access to the essential scientific notation and calculation tools required to guide your students through the maths curriculum in key stages 3 and 4.
All of our ClassWiz calculators enable you to:
• Do arithmetic, trigonometric and logarithmic calculations
• Perform both univariate and bivariate data calculations
• Run dice-roll and coin-toss simulations
• Enter a function to populate a table of values
•Calculate equivalent ratios
On the Casio fx-83/85GT CW models, you can also access the number line feature to explore inequalities.
Using an advanced scientific calculator such as the Casio fx-991CW creates opportunities to explore more complex topics with your students and introduce them to new ways of working.
With the equation solving feature on the fx-991CW, for example, you can solve simultaneous linear, polynomial and non-linear equations. Knowing how to access this functionality on their calculator can help students build a deeper understanding of the topic and check their working
in maths exams.
Our most advanced scientific calculator also supports calculations of complex numbers, vectors and matrices, as well as normal and binomial probability distributions.
Why is it important for students to use scientific calculators?
This is a fair question to ask, and we think there are some powerful reasons why secondary school maths students should be highly familiar with scientific calculators as they prepare for their GCSE exams.
We’ve spoken to many teachers and education leaders to get their thoughts on using calculators in the classroom and maximising their benefits.
One of the most compelling points we’ve heard is that calculators can aid learning by removing the barriers often created by time-consuming manual work.
When students are being introduced to new topics and concepts, they should be able to focus on the essential theory and use their device to perform calculations that confirm their understanding of certain problems. This, in turn, raises their ability to tackle more difficult questions.
Pythagoras provides a good example. When faced with exam questions around this topic, students’ focus should be on understanding the question and applying the theory of a2 + b2 = c2, not manually calculating the square or square root of the values they’ve been given.
Stronger classroom engagement
As any experienced teacher will know, getting students interested and engaged in their classroom learning can be a challenge. This can prove especially tricky when you start to tackle topics like algebra and trigonometric functions, which can seem daunting and impenetrable at first.
Providing the opportunity for students to work on a scientific calculator can make a big difference, particularly for classes whose experience of maths so far has mainly consisted of being passive and following the teacher’s lead.
When they have access to their own calculator, they can take a more active, exploratory approach to learning and search for their own answers to questions.
Calculators are now permitted in all but one of the UK’s GCSE maths papers – with only Paper 1 currently precluding calculator use – and all A-level maths papers. This begs the question: if students are allowed to use a scientific calculator, why not take advantage and give them every opportunity to thrive in their exams by using it to its full potential?
Students who have been shown how to use their calculator effectively – which shouldn’t require too much time – and have made it an intrinsic part of their exam preparations will be well-placed to maximise the benefits. These include:
• Using the full functionality of the calculator to take different approaches to difficult questions
• Being able to do advanced calculations quickly and accurately
• The ability to check their working
When is the best time for students to start using scientific calculators?
We’ve put this question to many current and former teachers, education experts and mathematicians, and the most common answer we receive is: the sooner the better.
Being comfortable with their calculator and knowing how to use it quickly and efficiently is a major benefit for students throughout their education, but particularly when it comes to performing well in exams.
The best way to build this familiarity is through consistent, long-term use. Students who are introduced to a scientific calculator in year 7 will simply see it as the norm – rather than a change they need to adjust to – by the time they reach year 10. Users of the fx-83/85GT CW who make the transition to the fx-991CW should be able to do so easily, since the calculators share the same menu structure and layout.
For students who haven’t had the benefit of using a calculator since the start of secondary school, two years of consistent practice throughout years 10 and 11 is the minimum we would recommend to prepare for GCSE examinations.
This will help to ensure that, when they go into their exams, students are comfortable with their device and will naturally use it to investigate problems, do calculations and check their working.
How to know if a scientific calculator is exam-approved
If you’re unsure about whether the scientific calculators your students are using are approved for use in particular exams, the best course of action is to contact the relevant examination board directly.
However, if you’ve been working with a Casio calculator, you can rest assured that all of our models are permitted in UK exam papers that allow calculator use.
Is a scientific calculator good enough to study A-level maths?
For students making the step up from GCSE to A-level maths, the fx-991CW is the only Casio scientific calculator with the functionality required to support this level of study.
It’s at this stage that some of the more advanced features of this model – such as normal and binomial probability distributions and equation solving – will really show their value.
Students who have demonstrated they can operate at greater depth or want to study further maths should also be aware of the benefits of using the fx-CG50 graphing calculator.
This model provides a range of features that aren’t available on scientific calculators. As well as offering the ability to plot graphs and take a more visual approach to key topics, it has tools such as the Distribution app, which is a big benefit when students start exploring statistics at A-level.
- Graphing technology
- Scientific calculators